Originality By Way Of Cliche: Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

“Goblin Slayer was calm as he delivered this answer that was no answer. He daubed his gauntlets with blood, then pulled a liver out from one of the bodies.”

 

—Kumo Kagyu, Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

§.00 The first installment of the novel series Goblin Slayer, Vol.1 (2016), written by Kumo Kagyu (with illustrations by Noboru Kannatsuki), opens with a creation story; the gods of light, order and destiny are locked in a cosmic struggle with the gods of darkness, chaos and chance (how many gods attend each attribute, we are not told). In place of fighting each other directly, their contest is engaged by the rolling of die. After some time the gods tire of dice and create the world as their board and all the beings upon it as their pawns.

§.01 After the table-top inspired prologue, a knowing, introductory line, preempting the cliches to come: “You’ve heard this one before.” More likely than not, upon reading Chapter 1, a fantasy-versed reader will, indeed have heard the set-up before; a young, would-be adventurer known only as Priestess (no characters in the novel have names, only class-designations) joins a guild, receives “porcelain” rank (the lowest of the guild’s 10-teir hierarchy) and is met by three other, young, would-be porcelain adventurers—Warrior, Fighter and Wizard—who ask her to join their party on a quest to save kidnapped maidens from the clutches of a band of goblins (which are described as “-tall as a child, with strength and wits to match”). Priestess after some hesitation, accepts the offer. The party then tracks down the goblins to their lair in a gloomy cave. Venturing within the recess, the party is filled with confidence, save for Priestess, who urges caution, however, her chiding proves fruitless—shortly thereafter, a band of goblins blindside the adventurers.

§.02 In a more conventional tale, the brave wayfarers would have just barely defeated the goblins, rescued the maidens and received a bountiful reward for their pains. However, in Goblin Slayer, they all wind up dead, or as good as. Wizard is gutted with a poison blade. Warrior is slaughtered. Fighter is beaten and raped. Priestess is set upon and takes an arrow to the shoulder. Yet, just before Priestess meets the same fate as Fighter, a mysterious man appears who is “not very impressive” and donned in “dirty leather armor and a filthy steel helm.” The man, a silver ranked adventurer (the third highest rank within the guild hierarchy), decimates the goblins and introduces himself as Goblin Slayer. He then tells Priestess that Wizard is as good as dead, due to the workings of goblin poison that had lined the blade which skewered her. Wizard asks to be put out of her misery and Goblin Slayer swiftly obliges and slits her throat without compunction, much to Priestess’ dismay. Slayer then states that he is going to finish off the rest of the goblins; Priestess goes with him and together they destroy the nest and find a secret room filled with goblin children born from the wombs of human females the goblin horde had kidnapped. Priestess inquires whether or not Slayer will kill them. He says he will and she tries to stop him by asking if he would still be willing to slaughter them if they were good, to which the Slayer replies “The only good goblins are the ones that never come out of their holes,” before clubbing the baby goblins to death. After this grisly affair, the Priestess resolves (rather surprisingly) to become a proper adventurer by accompanying Goblin Slayer on his bloody, ceaseless missions.

§.03 The first thing that struck me about the novel was how original its execution, despite its abundant cliches. In GS, cliches are dutifully employed to be forthrightly subverted, but not merely for the sake of surprising the reader, as when, in a Hollywood horror film, convention dictates a cat or trusted friend be responsible for the first jump-scare so that the effect of the second may be heightened by causing the audience to question whether or not it will again be a harmless animal or friend, or some genuine threat. For example, Goblin Slayer, a skillful warrior and thoughtful tactician, would, in more conventional fantasy works, ladder his way up from the stock genre threats (such as bandits, goblins, trolls, etc) to ever greater challenges (such as dragons and necromancers) in tandem with a plot ever expanding in scope, from the local, to the demense, to the national, to the continental to, invariably, the world, and, perhaps, other worlds (spirit realms, etc). This, however, is not the case with the slayer, who adamantly refuses to engage in any activity not related to exterminating goblins. His idee fixe is so extreme that the co-inhabitants of the town near where he resides come to consider him eccentric, if not mad, and they might be right, for even when he is told that the world is imperiled by “an army of demons” he refuses to aid those who petition his assistance, saying only, “If it isn’t goblins, then I don’t care.” His proclivity, no matter how unhealthy, proves salubrious to those previously living in fear of the diminutive raiders, as the “military won’t move against goblins.” (p. 135)

Further, a character who is introduced in a like-manner to the slayer in a conventional genre-work would also be charged with the characteristics partial to fantasy protagonists; which are generally either sullen and given over to reverie (as in Twilight or Lord of the Rings), whimsical and optimistic (as the protagonists in the novels of Charles De Lint), or a straight-laced ‘chosen one’ (as in Harry Potter or Star Wars), however, the slayer bares no similarity to any of these archetypes, or the hero archetype in general. Rather, he is more akin to a professional shorn of all social ambition—a obsessive tradesman—than the prototypical knight-errant of romantic literature. This is demonstrated in the sedulous way in which the slayer’s tradecraft is highlight, as in the following passages, “‘Leather armor prizes ease of movement. Mail would stop a dagger in the dark… His helmet, the same. Sword and shield are small, easy to use in a tight space.'” Kagyu, p. 130… “‘Clean items reek of metal,’ Goblin Slayer said, a note of annoyance in his voice. Goblins have an excellent sense of smell.” p. 132.

Of further interest is the fact that his trade is not a vaunted one, but is, instead, looked down upon as the preoccupation of an amatuer (the consensus in the story is that real heroes should always seek greater glory). One can see parallels between the snobbery of the guild adventurers, and the differential treatment by real-life society between the man who goes to college so as to become a doctor, and the man who goes to trade-school so as to become a lineworker. In recognizing this, Goblin Slayer Vol.1, functions as a cleverly disguised social satire as much as a RPG homage or action-adventure.


The novel series had its origins in a online thread posted by Kumo Kagyu in October, 2012; the story was later re-edited into novel-form and picked up by GA Bunko. On February 15, 2016, the first installment of the novel series was published via SB Creative (in Japanese). A few months later, in December 20, 2016, Yen Press licensed the novels and released the first volume in English. Both a comic (written by Masahiro Ikeno) and an animated adaptation (written by Hideyuki Kurata and Yosuke Kuroda) have been made in the interim since the initial publication of the novel series, which is, presently, still on-going (with ten volumes released in Japan as of 2019).


 

Fiction Circular 1/31/19

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” – Henry Ward Beecher

INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

The Dark Netizen published a installment in his on-going flash fiction horror series.

Part 1- Twittering Tale: Campfire

Part 2- Flash Fiction: Boots

Part 3- Flash Fiction: Stay Out

Part 4- Flash Fiction: Into The Woods

Part 5- Flash Fiction: Into The Woods 2

Part 6- Flash Fiction: The Woods

Roger and Gary heard their friend’s cries for help coming from the woods.

— The Woods

Next, Ventures Heart by Westley Nash, from his personal website, Thoughts of Steel. The form of the short story is unusual in that it is written more akin to a play than a typical prose work, however there is a reason for this, as the entire story is relayed via the transmission logs of a one Captain Taylor of the colonial ship, Venture’s Heart.

This is Captain Taylor of the colonial ship “Venture’s Heart” recording my final log prior to our departure towards the Perseus system. I am pleased to say that we have a clean sheet! Not that I want to tempt fate of course, but all in all the first stage of this mission has been a resounding triumph. — Ventures Heart

Stacey Chesters published her debut novel, To Play With Sadness, on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Synopsis:

A story of music and memory… 
a forgotten daughter wants to help her father to remember who she is after over 20 years of silence.

The fear of not being recognized.

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From Jokes Review, The Racoonist by Lee Blevins, wherein Mr. Blevins proves himself quite an agile, energetic and off-kilter humorist.

Rex considered himself quite animal-friendly but his instincts and training were violence personified and PETA wouldn’t like it if I told you what he did to that critter after it bit him. — The Racoonist

From 101 Words, Emma’s Ghost, a ghastly piece of flash fiction from Gudrun Roy.

“What is it, Emma?” I asked, finding her at the front door. “Stop screaming; it’s okay.”

“Ghost!” Emma yelled, hysterical. She pointed to the warped panel of glass in the door-frame; a pale, hazy stranger hovered just behind it. — Emma’s Ghost

From The Stray Branch, Family Tree by Dan Klefstad, a grim and captivating tale of vampiric lust.

Childbirth hurts because a woman’s organs force a living thing from her body. It’s a pity mortals don’t feel this pain more often. — Family Tree

From X-R-A-YDomestic Terrorist by Meeah Williams. A distinctively styled short story, as humorous as it is fragmented and perplexing.

“Do you happen to know where this train is headed?” He said, “No. But wherever it’s going I hope they serve hamburgers there.” — Domestic Terrorist

From Terror House Magazine, MadDog78 by A. Elizabeth Herting, a sad and moving tale of troubled man in failing health. A peeling away of simulacrum.

One of the best short stories I’ve read in a very long time.

Whenever she asked him for a picture, he’d send one at least five years old or make excuses about why he couldn’t take a new one. He knew he was being dishonest, but he didn’t want to scare away the only woman he’d ever loved. MadDog78 was his link to a possible future—or any kind of happiness—and he wasn’t about to screw it up with reality. — MadDog78

LITERARY EPHERMA

Completed the illustrated novel Goblin Slayer (Vol. I) by Kumo Kagyu (which inspired the comic and animated series of the same name). The book recounts the tale of a man obsessed with exterminating goblins in a cliche-ridden tabletop-inspired fantasy world (the gods are capricious beings who control the characters in the story by rolling dice, not unlike players in a D&D campaign). Rather than the mythic heroes one typically expects to find in high fantasy works, the titular Goblin Slayer is more like a janitor, who does the dirty and seemingly trivial work which, out of pride and indolence, his compatriots refuse. Originality by way of cliche. Better than expected.

“Imagine that one day your home is suddenly attacked by monsters. They swagger into your village like it belongs to them. They kill your friends, they kill your family, they loot your home. Imagine that they assault your sister. They torture her, they rape her, they kill her. They desecrate the bodies of your family, do whatever they want, cackling all the while. And you see it all from where you’re hidden, trying not to breathe. How could you ever let that go? So you get a weapon, you train yourself, you learn, you grow. Everything you do is to help you take revenge. You search them out, hunt them down, you fight, you attack, and you kill them and kill them and kill them and kill them. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes they don’t. But each time you ask—how will I kill them next time? What’s the best way to kill them? Day after day, month after month, that is all you think about. When you get a chance, of course you test every idea you have. And when you’ve been doing all that long enough… You start to enjoy it.” — Goblin Slayer

The American Literary Blog published a wonderful piece on the love poems of American writer, Albert Pike.

I am the soul of the Universe,
In Nature’s pulse I beat;
To Doom and Death I am a curse,
I trample them under my feet.

Creation’s every voice is mine,
I breathe in its every tone;
I have in every heart a shrine,
A consecrated throne.

— Albert Pike

Lastly, from Rachelle Gardener, Tightening Your Writing, a brisk and insightful guide to shearing away superfluous words in a text. She follows a lot of time-tested advice such as omitting excessive use of passive voice (indicated by words such as “was,” “were,” and, “that”). Seasoned writers

Thanks for reading.

If you have any recommendations for writers or outlets you think should be included, feel free to let us know.

If you wish to support our work publishing and promoting independent fiction authors and publications, you can do so here.